White Cotton Peonies

Both traditionalists at heart, we knew that we wanted a church wedding and had spotted a gorgeous little church tucked away called St Stephens Church. The wonder that is Google soon told us more about the church – one of the oldest in Bristol, the church had a new Reverend, Lee Barnes. After many pleading emails, we finally met Lee, dressed in our Sunday best (we stood out like a sore thumb) and we felt a connection with him immediately.

The congregation were welcoming and we were never made to feel like out-of-towners. Because we didn’t live in the parish, we needed to visit once a month for 6 months in the lead up to the wedding.


This was the best possible thing that we could have done. Whilst it was a couple of hours each way to get there, it meant that we got to know Lee and the congregation really well. We thoroughly enjoyed every service – whilst never “overly religious”, we were never preached to but instead Lee made the bible relevant to our modern day lives, asking questions rather than preaching. Every time there would be something, a nugget that was relevant to something going on in our lives at that point.


By the time that the wedding came around, Lee was able to deliver a really personal, young, relevant and fresh ceremony. EVERY single guest said they loved it. To this day, we still go back to church to attend where we can as Lee and the church will always have a special place in our hearts.

Things to consider if you’re planning a church wedding:

  1. Do you live in the local parish?

  2. If you live outside of the local parish, will  you be able to attend church once per month for 6 months prior to the wedding?

  3. You’ll need to have your banns read in the church that you’re planning to get married as well as your own parish church

  4. Do you like the Reverend? To have the best possible ceremony, you need to have a connection with them – it’s not just about a pretty venue

  5. Be prepared to choose 2-3 hymns and a psalm. You’ll also be able to choose a reading of your own and entry and exit music, so have those in your back pocket

  6. Be as honest as you possibly can with the Reverend when it comes to your briefing with them. You’re not being interviewed and this will allow them to make the service as personal as possible

  7. Will you need an organist?

  8. Would you like church bells? How is that arranged? What are the costs?

  9. Does the church have a choir? Are you able to use another choir if you wish?

Nearer to the time, you’ll need to find out:

  1. What time the groomsmen need to be at the church on the day of the wedding

  2. Whether you’ll have access to the church beforehand for your florist

  3. If you’re allowed to throw confetti

  4. Whether you’re allowed to light candles in the church

  5. The situation with photography – many churches don’t allow mobiles to be turned on throughout the ceremony understandably

  6. When your rehearsal will be (it’s worth getting as many of the wedding party to this as possible including people doing a reading so that they know what to expect)

I found https://www.yourchurchwedding.org/ a great resource with details about the costs, ideas for hymns and psalms. It takes you through everything.


We really wanted a gospel choir and chose Vocal Works Gospel Choir who were incredible. Following Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol and A Thousand Years (which set me off as soon as I arrived at the church), I walked into Amazing Grace.


Not only did the choir make for a really moving ceremony, they were great for keeping people entertained whilst we were signing the registers. At this point, they sang All You Need is Love, Your Love Keeps Lifting and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. Another benefit of having a choir is that they’ll join in with your hymns meaning you never get that awkward silent singing situation. We walked out to Oh Happy Day. It was perfect.

For our reading, my best friend Rebekah read Invisible Kisses by Lemn Sissay which seemed to fitting after all that we’ve been through together. Bex did an awesome job and it was one of my highlights.


If you live in Bristol and you’re looking for a church, I can’t recommend St Stephens highly enough. If you’re considering a church wedding elsewhere, I hope the tips above help. Married already? Anything I’ve missed? I’d love you to leave a comment below.


As always, this series is brought to you in conjunction with our awesome photographer Lightbox Studios just because he’s awesome.

M xox

Melanie Kentish

Hi! My name's Mel and I'm a 30 something blogger living in Windsor, UK with my two ginger cats and a rather handsome husband. White Cotton Peonies is the place where you'll find my ramblings on health, fashion, beauty, food and my random adventures as a soon-to-be mum. Enjoy.


  1. Sophie


    What a stunning church and wedding, loved these photos and tips :)

    Sophie x

    • Mel Kirk


      Aw, thanks Sophie! x

  2. Angie Silver (@SilverSpoonLDN)


    We’re not religious but we chose to have our wedding in a synagogue, being in that beautiful building really added to the magic of the day.
    Lots of love,

    SilverSpoon London

    • Mel Kirk


      It sounds beautiful, I’ll have to pester you for photos one day :) xx

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